Fishing has been good this year and northern fishing was particularly good during the early part of the season. A lot of my customers reported catching big northerns this year and in every single instance that I heard about, the fish were returned to the water to be caught again another day. When I was a kid, every large fish was kept, shown off, and either eaten or mounted. Now, almost everyone releases big fish.
Under a new plan being proposed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, it looks like it will soon become mandatory to release all big northern pike caught in northeastern Minnesota. Research is showing that preserving the big northerns and removing the hammer handles is much better for the walleye population and the overall ecological health of the lakes.
DNR Fisheries managers are pretty confident in their science, but are still bending over backward to include the public in any future regulation changes. They know from bitter past experience that tampering with fishing regulations can have the same potential effect on politics that dynamite has on fish populations. They are hopeful that by tailoring different regulations to the circumstances in different parts of the state, they can get good buy-in from the public. Based on the many anglers that I talk to every day, the plan sounds like a good one to me.
Speaking of politics, our own State Senator Tom Bakk's tenure as Senate majority leader is being called into question by many editorial writers across the state. The chaotic end to the recent legislative session has led to some public disgruntlement among the members of the DFL caucus in the Senate. Some last minute back-room deals weakening some key environmental protections angered many Democrats, both within the caucus and across the state. Bakk also supported a downgrading of the State Auditor's power, which was widely seen as political payback for Auditor Rebecca Otto's publicly expressed reservations about proposed sulfide mining near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Although the change for the Auditor's position ultimately did pass, most legal scholars don't give it much of a chance of withstanding an expected constitutional legal challenge.
Earlier this year, Bakk received a bitter tongue lashing from fellow DFLer Governor Mark Dayton in which the Governor said that he could no longer trust the powerful Senate Majority Leader. The two men eventually reconciled, but the end of the session seemed to expose some ongoing tension.
Of course, for those of us lucky enough to live in Senator Bakk's district, he has been a good friend, bringing millions of dollars to the district for good projects and by stint of his leadership power, protecting our interests very effectively at the legislature. It would be a distinct loss for us if Senator Bakk lost his leadership position. However, some political pundits are suggesting that Senator Bakk's weakened position within his own caucus, combined with a distinct swing of statewide public opinion against sulfide mining near the wilderness, which he strongly supports, may cost him that very leadership position.
Even if it does't happen next year, the Iron Range will very likely lose some political clout after the 2020 census, based on population trends alone. Whatever ends up happening, it will be an interesting next few years for political nerds like me to observe the happenings.
Two former Sawbill Outfitters crew members who have become permanent residents of Cook County, Carla Hill and Jessica Hemmer, went on a canoe trip together last week. On the last morning of their trip, they awoke on Polly Lake, to discover that a large snapping turtle had crawled into their fire grate, where they had built a fire just the night before, and was laying its eggs. They saw at least 15 eggs go into the hole dug by the turtle with their own eyes.
After a couple of hours, the turtle, apparently now empty of eggs, jostled itself around and headed back to the lake. The two experienced wilderness women watched with interest as the primeval looking reptile waddled toward a steep rock incline. They speculated that the turtle was planning to slide on its bottom shell, down the steep slope to the water. Much to their surprise, when the turtle started to slide, it immediately went end over end, or as the late Millie Croft used to say, "arse over teacup," clump, clump clump - until it finally splashed back into the lake. After briefly gathering its wits, mama turtle swam calmly off, leaving two astonished humans in its wake.
It was just another unique experience in the wonderful West End.